It was about as discreet as a Rumsfeld one-liner: the U.S. has requested bids for $900 million to rebuild Iraq, using only American companies including Vice President Cheney's old firm Halliburton. That prompted British M.P. Vincent Cable, backed by rapturous cheers, to ask Prime Minister Tony Blair if he was "embarrassed" to support a President who regards "war as an opportunity to dish out contracts to his cronies." The Foreign Office later said "it seems perfectly fair that if American money is being used, the work goes to American companies." True, that's fair in the U.S., where the relief agency USAID requires contracts to go to U.S. groups; but British firms must vie for British aid money with foreign competitors. The stakes, argues chief executive of the British Consultants and Construction Bureau Colin Adams, are not actually that high: "These projects are a steady, long-term grind, without vast profits." Yet he and many others still hope the U.S. will allow "steadfast allies" to subcontract work, as they did in Afghanistan.
Corus Sings The Steely Blues
When conflict happens in a marriage, the most common reason is money. Last week Corus the steelmaker forged in 1999 from the merger of British Steel and Dutch firm Hoogovens looked perilously close to divorce. To address its scarred financial position Corus has lost about 32.9 billion since the merger, most of it on the U.K. side the British-led management had planned a 3805 million sale of some of Corus' aluminum interests. When the Dutch supervisory board blocked the move, the management took their Dutch overseers to court and lost. To add to the misery, Corus 2002 results showed a net loss of 3675 million and triggered the resignation of British CEO Tony Pedder. Corus will likely now lay off thousands more of its 26,000 U.K. workers. Still, financial woes may keep the marriage intact; the cost of demerging could force Corus into receivership.
The Bottom Line
"Sure, losing hurts, but not nearly as much as paying lawyer's bills."
DAVID WARE, head of TeamTalk, after he lost a best-of-three arm-wrestling match to settle a €102,000 legal dispute with a rival telecommunications firm in New Zealand